Croatian parish welcomes Archbishop Smith as one of their own 

05 March 2024

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

Welcomed with traditional song, dance, food –  and his own national soccer team jersey – Archbishop Richard Smith made a pastoral visit to Nativity of Mary Catholic Church, the Croatian parish for the Archdiocese of Edmonton. 

“We are all like one big family with him,” said Father Matt Zugaj, the pastor of Nativity of Mary.

Father Matt Zugaj celebrates Mass alongside Archbishop Smith.

During his March 2-3 visit to the parish, the Archbishop met with the parish council, shared a traditional meal with the community, met with the parish community for an open discussion and celebrated Mass for the community of approximately 240 families. 

Archbishop Smith preached a homily on the readings for the Third Sunday in Lent, which was focused on the Gospel story of Jesus driving the moneychangers and the merchants out of the Temple. 

Archbishop Smith gives the Holy Eucharist to a parishioner.

“Because we are baptized, we are [each] temples of the Holy Spirit . . . Yet, from within us, there can arise desires and intentions to spend our time in ways that do not accord with the loving plan of God,” shared Archbishop Smith. 

“These, too, Jesus wants to ‘drive out of the temple’. The difference now is that he does so with not a harsh whip of cords but the compassionate touch of mercy, which reaches us in the sacramental celebrations of the Church, particularly in response to our confession of sins in the sacrament of Penance.”

The parish community of the Nativity of Mary gathers for Mass with Archbishop Smith.

The parish of Nativity of Mary celebrates Mass in Croatian only, and the growing parish is intentional in ensuring that their faith, language and culture remain strong. This love of culture was on full display during the Archbishop’s visit. 

Members of Edmonton’s local Domagoj Croatian Folkdance Ensemble wore traditional clothing during their participation in the Sunday liturgy. After Mass, the Domagoj Ensemble performed the traditional folk dance “lindjo” and the community then gathered for lunch.

Archbishop Smith with parishioners of Nativity of Mary Catholic Church and members of the Domagoj Croatian Folkdance Ensemble.

Many of the children who attended the liturgy during the Archbishop’s visit wore traditional clothing representing the different regions of Croatia from which their families originate. 

The parish community also presented Archbishop Smith with a Croatian national soccer team jersey with a number “34” in honor of 2024 as the 34th anniversary of Croatian independence. Emblazoned on the honorary jersey was the name “Smith.”

Archbishop Smith is presented with a “34” soccer jersey, in honor of 34 years of Croatian national independence.

“The [Archbishop of Edmonton] is part of this anniversary, because of his support to our Croatian community and parish,” Father Zugaj shared after the Archbishop’s pastoral visit.

“The Archbishop’s relaxed approach to parishioners is the reason why our parishioners love him so much and feel that they can be authentic around him.”

Read Archbishop Smith’s full homily from the Third Sunday in Lent

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Jenny Connelly – Archdiocese of Edmonton